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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  July 5, 2009 12:30am-1:30am EDT

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one of these ships were anchored in wall about bay a shallow inlet on the brooklyn side of the east river. to a man the americans who made it through the winter of 1776, 77 on the wall about hooks told of almost unimaginable horrors. james little was on a chip ship so crowded that the men couldn't lie down all at once and their rations barely sufficed to keep body and soul together. in the morning they received half a point of the water is to. in the evening they received scraps of cannell biscuit. he added in the putrefied stagnated air of the hold of the vessel crowded with furman he and his companions grew faint and feeble and once the smallpox
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began it was heartbreaking. every morning dead bodies or twisted on deck a cannon ball fast and and they were thrown overboard with a shout of there goes another damned yankee rebel. he also remember when isaac gibbs got permission to bury his father a short in the dead of winter he as well as the two friends he took with him to help, none of them wearing proper clothing got so chilled and frozen they died soon after their return. and the narrative he said for his children, then a 17-year-old private from fairfield connecticut described the darkness of his first night aboard the ships when he and the other men were packed so tightly as many as one-third suffocated by morning. it took the better part of the day to pullout the debt. the survivors not fit for hogs soon became delirious with hundred. peery himself began to think i
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could eat my own flesh without wincing because only a few prisoners were allowed on deck at a time and we had no means for cleansing ourselves. our outside cloves were glazed over and over underclothes were not much better. one of those paroled from the first of february, 1777. peery somehow managed to make it home partly able to draw 1 foot after another. yet eager to be exchanged so i could be at them again. david thorpe, a native of woodbury connecticut recalled four days a week his eight men received nothing to eat except several points of oatmeal on the other three days each had 2 ounces of salt beef with a little hard biscuit. once they had no fresh water for three days. it didn't take long before the man held under these conditions began sinking into a kind of
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catatonic despondency. william slade of new canaan initially held in the north about church and transferred to a ship called the grosvenor recorded their decline in his diary. sunday, if of december, 1776. this day we were almost discouraged but considered that wouldn't do, cast off such thoughts. we draw our bread and eat with sadness, spent the day reading and in meditation hoping for good news. friday the 13th of december 1776. we now see nothing but the mercy of god to intercede, orval times all faces looked pale and discouraged. tuesday the 17th we are treated worse than cattle and hogs. friday the 20, prisoners hang their heads and look pale, no
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comfort, all sorrow. sunday the 22nd last night nothing but groans all night of sick and dying man amazing to behold, deaths multiplied while fees' is sat. monday the 23rd. one die is almost every day. friday the 27th. three men of our battalion blight last night. but no one imagined things for any easier for the thousands of men left behind and new york churches in the bridewell or provost or city hall or the sugarhouses. private thomas dewitt of west koln pennsylvania recalled worms and food, putrid water, random fogging and the gaging odor of urine and excrement and so much sickness burial party is looking of ten or 20 bodies every morning. henry franklin a quaker who visited the north dutch church only two days after the fall of fort washington testified that the men were already fighting
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over scraps. those who were modest and backward, he added, could get little or none. captain edward baliles been snatched by the tories near his new trustee, engine debris 1777 found himself in livingston sugarhouse here he wrote was such a filthy state of things there wasn't a place to lie down for rest day or night upon the excrements of the prisoners. and to sleep was almost certain death. with yellow fever, want and suffering the prisoners were donner and constantly and it was impossible to move about without stumbling over the dead and dying. one of the bridewell inmates who lived, private and william darlington compared under oath he and his companions were allowed every three days half a pound of this, half a pound of pork, half a point of peace, have a deal of royce and half an ounce of butter. the whole lot more than enough for a good meal.
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they had no hay or straw to write down and fuel but one cartload per week for 800 men. every night at nine, he added, haitian guards would come in to douse the fires clubbing prisoners who failed to get out of the way fast enough. the enemy seemed to take an informal pleasure in our sufferings, darlington recalled. not surprisingly began to die like rotten sheep with cold hundred and dirt. levi whitney confined in one of the sugar houses bald the flash of his arms to keep from starving to death. colonel joseph farms sohn was said to have expired while trying to. by the end of 1776, disease and starvation had killed at least half of them and taken prisoner on long island and perhaps two-thirds of those captured at fort washington. somewhere between two innocent at 2500 men in the space of two
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months though no one will ever know for sure. the impact on local communities was crushing. of the 36 men from lynch filled connecticut to help steve and fort washington, for work killed and 32 were taken prisoner. 20 of them die in the prisons of new york. another six on the way home. only six returned to lynch field, six of the original 36. half a company of 100 men raised in danbury connecticut was capture of fort washington and confined in one of the sugar houses. two of them survived. some towns may have lost every one. at dinner one night in april, 1777, ambrose, admiral howe's secretary heard of a little town in connecticut that turned out to hundred 20 men for the american cause. every last one of whom died in
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battle or succumbed to disease in one of the prisons of new york. many families appear to have been entirely wiped out or nearly so. two of riss packs three sons were taken prisoner at fort washington. one of lost both feet to frostbite trying to walk home from new york in the dead of winter. the other return home with smallpox and died but not before injecting the husband who subsequently died as well. connecticut wasn't alone. of the 130 militiamen from northampton only 30 made it out alive. colonel thomas informed general washington in february, 1777 of the man from york county heuvel prisoner at fort washington only a handful lived to tell the doleful story of their captivity and distress. almost all of them had died
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within days of rejoining their families. so to 17 young man from berkeley county virginia took part in the defense of fort washington and wound up in the presence of new york city. 15 of the 17 didn't survive the winter. their names and dates of death recorded in the journal of the captain who had led them so far from home. of the two ailing survivors only one who lived on till summer. stories of this kind of wrapped in pride and bitterness and grief suffused local memory and family legend to four generations. nearly 60 years later a newspaper editor in and hers massachusetts would give his readers a long and haunting account of how his late father, captain edward boyle stand was robbed by the red coats who captured him in january 1777. after a week's confinement on and on named prison ship boils down was put in livingston's
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sugarhouse where such was the fall the state of things he wrote that there wasn't a place to lie down for the rest day or night but upon the excrements of the prisoners. it was a story his son wrote he never forgot. as colonel hartley would point out in the letter to washington the influence these things will have upon the country will take a long time to wear off. fast forward now a couple of years to 1779 a couple of years and about 100 pages of the book to a somewhat different topic. and the summer of 1779a philadelphia printer named robert bell began to advertise a slender volume that would transform the way americans understood and responded to the abuse of prisoners in new york. this was the grand eloquently titled narrative of colonel ethan allen's captivity from the time of his being taken by the
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british near montreal on the 25th day of december in 1775 to the time of his exchange on the sixth of may, 1778 written by himself. it was an immediate best seller. ellen's narrative would be reprinted eight times before the end of the and would want to be one of the most widely read books during the first half of the 19th century. allen's success stems in part from advanced publicity that most authors only treen about. did anyone in the country not know by 1779 at least the general outlines of his career as a prisoner of war? he had been taken prisoner during the invasion of canada, hauled off to england in chains, then thrown into the provost in new york and so on. his only bible as a celebrity captive was general charles lee and things to his recent showing at the battle of monmouth courthouse league was in
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disgrace. but timing also helped allen's reputation on the sales of his book even though the abuse of american prisoners wasn't news by 1779 no one before allen had given the reading public a full length firsthand blow by blow account of what was like to be caught and held by the enemy. more than anything else i think the distinctive, the popularity of allen's book reflected the distinctive contribution that it made to the robust tradition of captivity narrative, real and imagined known to every literate american in the final decades of the 18th-century. the jews in egypt, christian martyrs', john smith and the virginia, robinson crusoe, bolivar among the lilliputian, poland and in the hands of king philip, black calcutta, the list goes on and on. it's a very long one.
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to captivity in one form or another all simply stories about captivity was a very real part of ethan allen's world. think of imprisonment for debt or the practices of indentured servitude and of course child slavery. now in the arctic the call narrative falling into the hands of one's enemy is the shameful consequence of things gone wrong. it's a mark of failure. personal or collective or both that cries out for explanation and accountability. the captives story and the traditional format becomes the quest for redemption, getting to the end means reeducation, transformation, even rebirth. the person who emerges from captivity is not the same person who was taken prisoner. but alan's narrative works differently.
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his captivity is and the consequence of sinfulness or moral turpitude or incompetence, let alone cowardice. he surrendered to the enemy for the eminently sensible reason that he and his men were cornered. it's an explanation but not an apology. he committed no crime fighting for his country. he refuses to be labeled a rebel. he demands to be treated in fact as a gentleman of the military establishment. thus his subsequent career as a captive cannot be understood as a voyage of self discovery or moral progress because he never has second thoughts or regrets. because i was engaged, i never viewed as worth house are in my life. nor was i the most critical moments of trouble sorry that i engaged in at. indeed instead of making him conscious of his own shortcomings, cap to the awakens him to those of his enemies.
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his encounters with hockey malicious officers, venal ship captains and foul mouth guards teach him british civility is a hoax. britain's, he realized, reveled in cruelty. as other authors had written cruelty is there national trait. the personality so to speak of tierney. and the outrage that is already aroused across america is why there can be no peace without independence. all i know you have individuals who still retain their virtue, he tells his captors directly but as a nation i hate and despise you. so when he finally regains his freedom at the conclusion of the narrative is not because his odyssey through british jails and prisons and made him a different person that precisely because he managed to remain the same person, a full blooded
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yankee he writes to the bitter end. less than i here after the initial publication of allen's narrative americans were confronted by a new horror, the prison ship jersey easily the biggest and deadliest of her kind in the revolutionary war. she would claim so many lives during her brief time in service that for generations she would serve as the most widely recognized symbol of british cruelty worse than the provost and shocking than the sugar houses. launched in 1736 the jersey had seen decades of service in the mediterranean as a fourth rate frigate before the converted to a hospital ship in 1771. she came to new york with the rest of the fleet in 1776 and is one of the largest vessels in port. her great black hole would have been a familiar sight to the residents of the city. in april or early may of 1780
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per royal navy boot the jersey to wallen soudet where she was presumably an refitted to begin receiving prisoners. looking the jersey for use as a prison ship began with removal of her asks, kansas, figurehead and rudder. her gunports were unsealed and replaced by small roast of airport's board with odierno mabus for the benefit of the prisoners confined on her low were decked. on the quarterdeck a large awning or tent sheltered 30 marines who watched 310 foot darrigade when the prisoners came out on deck to exercise. on the part of the deck below the quarter deck were the officers cabin and various storage rooms. between the quarter deck and the land area of the gun deck known as the sport back it too was accessible to prisoners during the day to a good bit was already appropriated where
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officers kept pigs for their own consumption in wallabout de james anchored the jersey securely in the shallow channel that loop between the mud flats. shibley about 100 yards off shore opposite of the millrace and sheltered from the weather by the grassy sandbanks that image the bay to the south and east. one of that now of course has survived. it's been turned into the brooklyn navy. the rising and falling tide kept the water and the channel moving but never swiftly enough to clear away the greasy putrescent slick that encircle her after the necessary tubbs were brought from below and emptied over the side in the morning, a daily ritual. a flock of smaller vessels usually covered nearby among them don't always the same time. john, bristol pac and eight export the sometimes also took prisoners. when the jersey began to receive american prisoners isn't clear.
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it may have been when she was still in service as a hospital ship. but once she became a prison called the numbers soared and conditions rapidly deteriorated. among her first prisoners which john van dyke a furloughed artillery man who had the misfortune to be traveling on the brink taken by the enemy frigate iris. he and others when i came on board, vandyke recalled, her stench was so great i thought it would soon kill me. the rations he received were so short a person would think it was not passable, possible for a man to live on. and once vandyke came back with a piece of salt pork so small he and his mismates had only one mouthful each and nothing else for the entire day. another time they had only some soup that consisted of brown
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water and 15 floating peace to hold them for 24 hours. each week business received 3 pounds of flour containing mysterious green of lumps along with a pound of very bad reasons. the mashed this together and wielded in the bag to make a kind of putting and this, he recorded became known as putting day. although captain to indict's memoir wouldn't be published until long after his death, american newspapers soon gave their readers plenty of comparable-store as about the jersey to worry about. most frequently reprinted was a deposition taken from george better in a prisoner on the jersey who said when he was sent to board in the summer the jersey held an 1100 prisoners, three times her normal component. to soften them for the royal navy recruiters the russians were reduced to a pint of water
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and 8 ounces of condemned bread per day plus 8 ounces of meat per week. american officers that urged them to resist with run into the provost he added. one of his fellow prisoners was silas talbott a privateer captain out of providence rhode island already known for wrecking havoc with enemy shipping. 23 years later taba described the world below deck from which it is a miracle anyone emerged same little load of live. there were no seats to lie on, talbott wrote colin not a bench to sit on. many men were almost without clothes. the dysentery fever frenzied and despair prevailed among them and filled the place with filth, disgust and horror. this cantinas of the allowance, the bad quality of the provisions, the brutality of the guards and the sick pining for comfort the couldn't obtain
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together furnished continually. one of the greatest scenes of human distress and misery i ever be held. it was now the middle of october. the weather was cool on a frosty night so the number of deaths per day was reduced to an average of ten and this number was considered by the survivors a small one when compared with terrible mortality that had prevailed months earlier. contemporary accounts confirm the accuracy of his memory. the prisoners on the jersey were treated with unparalleled severity and humanity that they receive only a few ounces of bad meat per week default like wild beasts to get near the small airports so they could breed of seven or eight of the indicted for 24 hours. well, there is a lot more of that, but hopefully you get the point. after the passage of 200 years, you might think there isn't much
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left to be said about the revolutionary war. curiously however historians have never paid much attention to what became of americans captured by the enemy in the course of that conflict. a visit to your local library might turn up a couple of monographs that deal with logistical and diplomatic issues and there are specialized journals but that's all there is no exaggeration to say that speech negative the first-ever attempt to address this story from start to finish line sure you have questions but before we get to the questions i want to say a few words about several key issues very quickly these are the issues i think the viewers are likely to focus on and since they won't let me write the reviews myself i'm going to talk to you about them in anticipation of the reviews. the first of the problems i want to talk about is the problem of
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numbers. that is true to figure out how many people we are talking about and that isn't easy because the records of the story are scattered and not very accurate. between 1775 and 1783 something like 200,000 americans took up arms against the crown. that's roughly 40% of the white male population. 16 years of age or older in a country of fewer than 3 million inhabitants. according to the most recent scholarly tabulation slightly over 6800 of those 200,000 men die in battle and another 10,000 in camp from wounds or disease. a minimum of 18,000 to 100 were thought to have become prisoners of war but 18,200 is only the minimum number, and includes only soldiers and sailors wearing the uniform of the
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continental forces or those of the individual states. what it does not include and i think this is important, but it doesn't include are the thousands of seafaring men captured aboard a private here's some of who of course -- clergymen and other prominent civilians who were jailed in new york for advocating independence. these were so-called prisoners of state. we would call them political prisoners neither does the figure includes hundreds of american soldiers and semen taken prisoner and actions to small to be reported or not captured in battle at all but off-duty so to speak at home ploughing their fields or like general charles lee sitting in a tavern some place. all in all, and it's my guess, but it's just that, a guesstimate is the grand total of american prisoners may well have reached as high as 30,000
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during the eight year long revolutionary war. several thousands were held briefly in charleston after the city fell in 1780. additional hundreds mostly sailors would be detained back in english prisons, but the great bulk of the 30,000 prisoners were held and immediately adjacent to new york city. the actual death toll will never be known although the available evidence suggests the mortality rate hovered between 60 and 70%. for example, of the 2700 men captured at fort washington in november, 1776, 1100 died over the winter and another 900 on the way home and effective mortality rate of almost 75%. it bares mentioning that the mortality rate among union prisoners at andersonville in the civil war was reportedly
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35%. half as great. a 60% mortality rate would mean an overall total of something like 18,000 fatalities. during the revolutionary war machen other words more americans lost their lives in the prisons and prison ships of new york than anywhere else. between two and three times as many as those who died in combat. nobody was surprised when the british provost marshal took credit for killing more rebels in new york than the rest of the majesty's forces combined. it was there, not boston or philadelphia or valley forge where the vast majority of americans gave their lives for independence. it is a mean and ugly story. it is also a story that enlarges our understanding of the united states was made not merely by gentlemen and powdered wigs and knee britches but also thousands upon thousands of mostly
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ordinary people who believe in something they considered worth dying for. the second problem that may very well occur to you as the discussion proceeds is the problem of intention. the problem of intention is the second. almost from the very beginning americans denounced the death of so many prisoners as systematic coldblooded murder. today we would be tempted i think to use terms like ethnic cleansing or genocide. a congressional committee confirmed the mistreatment of american captives. the american, general prisoners made an inspection trip into new york and returned with absolutely hair raising accounts of conditions in the prisoners. he was especially perturbed about the conduct of the provost
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marshal william cunningham who freely admitted to abusing the prisoners in his care. it was cunningham by the way who hanged nathan hale. but the question is -- the question is this: or the british deliberately killing prisoners in new york? was this in some sense intentional? i think the answer depends on what you mean by deliberate. if you mean consciously formulated policy communicated in writing from the king to his ministers to generals in the field i've been the answer is probably no. there isn't any evidence of have seen to support the claim that the deaths of thousands of american pows was intentional or premeditated. besides as has often been pointed out there were extenuating circumstances. the british army in america often found itself short of provisions and it is sometimes a wonder prisoners got anything to eat at all. redcoats, too, were affected
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with smallpox, dysentery, typhus and other diseases. the mortality rate on the voyage from england to america was always her in this. besides, nobody in the 18th-century ever treated prisoners well. ..
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after ellen's capture the government brought him back to england for a date with the hangman. american deemphasize years godbey writ of habeas corpus which would force the authorities to produce and run the risk of a public trial. before the rich could be delivered however, allen was hustled back to america beyond the reach of meddlesome judges and juries. a year later parliament suspended habeas corpus allowing captured americans to be confined indefinitely without the need to file charges against them. that they were then treated in differently at best should come as no surprise. it is worth adding here i think that the british were under no formal obligation to take better care of their prisoners in any case. by the 18th-century it was
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generally agreed that disarmed adversary should not be executed, and humiliated, tortured or mutilated, that they should not be denied ransom, prosecuted as criminals or enslaved and they should not be denied approve the at food, clothing and. none of this had been codified in the national treaties or conventions nor would it be for more than a century. the so-called rules of war or lot of arms explicated by jurist and classicist or largely theoretical and essentially unenforceable. they were not rules or laws at all strictly speaking, merely optimistic guidelines for mitigating the severity of armed conflict between purportedly civilized princess. whether they even apply in cases of domestic insurrection or rebellion was and still is open to question. besides, the parliament and the administration adamantly refused
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to classify americans as prisoners of war until after yorktown when the independence of the united states could be denied no longer. one more thing, british commanders knew full well what was happening in the jails and prisons in america. they knew that americans were dying by the thousands in those places yet they did nothing. none of them in fact ever bothered to deny the more telling the was truly heartbreaking. there is one class problem that might have occurred to you and i want to say just something very briefly about it in that is the problem of memory. why has this extraordinary story remained largely unknown, a mere footnote as it were, to the revolutionary epic? i think there are the least a couple of reasons that come to mind. one of them that will certainly make sense to a new york audience, whether it's quite grips an audience out of new
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york as it would residents of new york is the relentless transformation of the city's built environment over the last 200 years. other than st. paul's chipalone broadway completed in 1766 and tiny bowling greene at the foot of broadway with some of you may know still has the same cast-iron fence around it that it did when the revolution began, every tangible connection to the city's revolutionary past has vanished. the places where thousands of american prisoners died from starvation and disease, the churches, the sugarhouses in the jails, nothing survives. it is all gone and in fact most of these places have disappeared from the urban landscape well before the civil war. think for a moment about the difference between new york and say philadelphia or boston. these cities as you know have preserved multiple physical link to the revolution. carpenters hall, bunker hill, paul revere's house and callous
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other places that summon up the memory of long ago places and events. new york on the other hand is the most historic seidel of places. its residents glory in the defeat of history. they have no patience with that. they come to escape the past not to find it. they want to start over fresh, free of the dead weight of must the tradition. they look ahead to the future. what happened before is of no consequence. in this sense it is not surprising that the story of those suffering revolutionary war prisoners has been so neglected, so has almost everything else in new york connecting its residents to the revolution. why is it so hard? the battle of the war was fought, because this side as long ago vanished. it has been rebuilt, pape dover in fenced in. it is just no longer there. there are a few monuments that prison ship martyr's monument in fort green park and another
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monument to the sugarhouse prisoners tucked into a corner of trinity churchyard. monuments anstead aren't the same thing is the actual place where something important happened. why not please go as it takes our memory with it. but that is not the only reason why i think the story of the prisoners of new york has disappeared. i would suggest there is another one and that is the anglo-american-- the germinated toward the end of the 19th century and limp in the heat of two world wars. historians in those years like to dwell upon the english foundation of key american values and institutions. there was you may know spirited talk in the 1890's and early 1900's of anglo-saxon racial unity and anything that threaten to revive memories of the long, bitter struggle for american independence actually began to seem downright disloyal. consider for example the story of the spirit of '76, a silent
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film what graphic scenes of british brutality. we it was famously suppressed under the espionage act of 1917 and its producer was sentenced to 12 years n.a. federal pen potentiary. why? the judge explain because he created animosity for want of confidence between us and our allies. in new york fewer and fewer residents took part in the city's annual celebration of the evacuation day, november 25, 1783 the day the redcoats finally left manhattan. celeste official observance attended by a few score old veterans took place in 1916. not surprisingly, historians began to suggest that the stories of prisoner abuse during the revolution were in fact probably largely propaganda or as one of them put it to the unproved charges of early tradition founded on the bitter feeling of the day.
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later in, later in the 20th century at the height of the cold war one of our most eminent historians, samuel elliott morison, made the same point in his booker fee of john paul jones. we should not dwell on what happened to american prisoners during the revolution he said because it only provides fuel for american anglo folks. it happened but no good purpose is served by continuing to talk about it. the p.o.w. story did not disappear in other words. it was buried. thank you. [applause] okay, now is your time to tell me what you have in mind. please. >> i guess that is what we should do so that they can be properly documented.
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>> thank you by the way for a greene this to light. it does not get enough publicity. to questions. one is how did howe and clinton know and when did they know it and secondly, why didn't the americans make a mistake in not retaliating. they had scores of prisoners of their own taken on ships in battle. if they have retaliated in done similar treatment would that have perhaps save some lives or to the credit of the americans, they didn't do that? >> the short answer to the first question, what the general howe no and when did he know it, he knew the whole thing in a good pretty early in the game. there was no lack of information about this. officers on his staff knew it. americans for getting help letters which had to pass through the censors before they could be sent across the lines detailing some of these things so it was widely known among
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house staff and he himself was informed by washington on numerous occasions, so i have absolutely no doubt he was perfectly aware of this. i think he just didn't care and needed-- neither did general clinton who succeeded him. the second question about retaliation is an interesting one. there was a lot of talk and particularly congress about retaliating. they came pretty close to doing it on a number of occasions. washington did not like the idea of retaliation. he was always deeply troubled by the implications. he was aware that it was very important for the american army and himself personally to appear conventional, as if to appear conventional and legitimate and was very worried if ms.-- americans began retaliating on british prisoners, that it would only look bad in international opinion so he come to his credit, always stepped away from
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the temptation to do that and insisted, unlike his british counterparts on treating prisoners well. thank you. >> hi, i will add my thanks for that. first, i have got a question on a certain family i have gotten intrigue with, the clark family fighting in the civil war. william clark became louis clark, the older brother held together in the western wing from the encirclement by his incredible speeds and they have come of brothers and between them that were on the prison hoax and i had wondered if you had come upon their story at all? if not, maybe, if you could comment on maybe the war of 1812 where are ships that captured a lot of the british sailors were renowned to have treated them atrociously. >> the question about the clarks, the short answer is no,
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i don't think i did but i believe there are some letters from the clark's. they are and, out in medicine at the university of wisconsin library. i didn't have a chance to look at those, but they seem to recall something about that. i have one point, i have a database of all the names i had tried to cross check all of the sources, but i don't remember anything about the clark specifically. the second question had to do with the war of 1812 and i'm going to duck that because i spent so much time on the revolution that i didn't have the chance to get in the war of 1812 although i will say that the war of 1812 was important in reviving the story momentarily during the 19th century. it was during the run-up to the war of 1812 that the too many society of new york fixed on the story and the last chapter of my book is about the ups and downs of historical memory of this.
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it was the tammany society that began to collect bones for example and make plans and collect money to put up some kind of a memorial to the prisoners which really didn't happen until the early part of the 20th-century but it was a kind of stimulus to remembering this story but it did not last because within a few years after the end of the war, it disappeared from view again. >> thanks. yep, another question. >> did the british used torture to interrogated or get information? >> i have found only one or two cases where prisoners were deliberately abused for the purposes of extracting intelligence. i think that the answer to that is clearly no. in fact, oddly enough one of the common reasons for the
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mistreatment of prisoners was recruitment, not intelligence gathering. and british recruiters from both the army and navy regularly patrolled the prison ships looking for able-bodied men who were hungry enough to want to sign up and there was some reason to believe that hundreds did at various points of time sign up with the british to get off of these prison ships or out of the jails. it is also i think true that again, this is all anecdotal but as soon as they have the opportunity a lot of them absconded from the british and went back to the american lines. abuse, torture for the purposes of getting information, no i don't see very much of that if at all. >> did the manner of incarceration by the british rebound against the british, or the loyalists during or after the war? >> that is why think this story is very interesting because what
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ethan allen said and this was echoed by newspapers and private journals and correspondence that this was a huge story during the revolutionary war itself and it was one of the things benjamin franklin for example who was sitting over in paris was reading all about the abuse of american prisoners and very troubled by this. it was for franklin and many other americans, it was the one thing that convince them that there could be no reconciliation between the united states in great britain, that this was for a lot of people who may be sitting on the fence, hell little unsure about what made americans different from the mother country, once these stories of prisoner abuse came out it was dramatic. everybody said this is it. now we know what we are fighting about. no ledo have different we are from these people. this is, this is the fate that awaits all of us if we don't
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win, and i have some stories of american generals who were conducting recruiting campaigns for example who said this and is the stories would start coming out, enlistments would soar because everybody was so angry. it was a public-relations disaster for the british and the wonder is people like general howe never understood what a disaster this was. >> what about the treatment of benjamin franklin's son william for example? >> well, i take up briefly the question of whether americans treated british prisoners as deadly and there is no doubt that there are comparable stories. i site the sins berry mine story along with a number of others. new york for example had its own prison shims that were anchored in the river in upstate new york which were every bit as dreadful
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as british prison ships. the only difference, if there is a difference, is there were far fewer of them and the mortality rates as far as i can tell on these prisons, in these prison ships was much, much lower come nothing to compare with what took place in the british-- british prisoners were never held in the kind of concentration and that they were in new york. they never seem to have been decimated by disease. the conditions they were held in were not pretty but the results i think or not this disasters as they were for americans in new york. >> finally, are there records of posttraumatic stress among the american population? >> you know why look for that. and that they talk to a couple of people, sort of giving me some advice about how to detect signs of that and they didn't find very much of it except every so often in a pension
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application for example, he will read a story of the guy in the 1830's or 1840's who is clearly, his life after the war was, he could never get it together in the had problems with drinking and wife beating and all sorts of things. i just didn't feel confident enough to deal with that in those terms but i think yeah, i think that there is reason to believe that what we would know call post-traumatic stress was a factor in the lives of many of these veterans. it would make a wonderful book actually to talk about the lives of the trends after the war, not just former prisoners but guys who had seen combat as well. it would be really interesting book if you could wage-- wade your way through the pension applications. that would be a wonderful source. >> before i became interested in the subject i have a sense that a lot of the blame when two
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american tory, joshua lauren hughes-- [inaudible] is there a sense that the british tried to blame the american tory and that they were not at fault? >> no, i never saw finger-pointing on the british side really. the striking thing was that, you know, they never responded basically. there was never any attempt on the part of the british to say it was that guy. general robinson bess robertson who was the commandante in new york gid one point told booed not that he had been misinformed by his aides in he would see to this problem me deeply but that was clearly a hoax because i happen to know he had been in the prison only a month or so before and knew exactly what was going on in that place, so i think the extraordinary part of the story is the british indifference to the implications of what they were doing and i
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think in a lot of ways we would use terms like depraved indifference now to describe what they were thinking. >> is there any indication the treatment improved perhaps after 1780? >> no, no. it is often said that after saratoga and after yorktown when americans began capturing large numbers of british prisoners, that they necessarily began treating our prisoners better but no, i have read diaries that cover those periods of time and it is not true. things were bad until the very end. >> hi. who do talking little bit about the method, the means that he wrote the book and the motivation? was it gitmo? though lung did it take you to write it? where do you righted and how did you write it? >> how did i write it?
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slowly. slowly on a word processor. this is one of the topics that i got intrigued by when i was working on this larger book. i just found it. i came across this story and i could not find anything about it. the more i read the less i found and it went on my list of interesting things to look into. and when i finally, when the dust finally settled from the book and i began looking at something else to work on i went back to this and as i began reading newspapers and looking at private correspondence and breeding pension records and so forth i began to realize what a terrific story it is and i could not stop. when a story like this gets ahold of you it does not let go. it probably took me, start to finish, for five years. i had the deutche of too so was not able to work on it full time. speak to what extent did class
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considerations contribute to the british treatment of american prisoners? >> in the beginning, a lot i think. i tell some stories from the very early days of the war after fort washington for example, when the british officers, when british officers would encounter their nominal counterparts. americans would find, he was an american calling himself a colonel but turns out to be a schoomaker or store owner in private life. the british were very in begin about this. this was a real affront to their sense of honor, that americans would dare to make an officer of someone he was so transparently not a gentleman and i do think, although obviously it is almost impossible to prove this but i really do think there was a sense of real indignation with this and that these people should not, as one officer said,
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we cannot treat them as if we were on the quality he said. they call themselves officers but they are clearly not. they have no right to use those kinds of ranks and that sort of terminology. i think it resulted in a lot of trouble for americans in the beginning. my sense is that as the war went on and remember it was a war that lasted for severna eight years. this was one of the longest wars in american history and by the end of that i think the british were taking a different view. there is some officers for example the go on record as saying have with to the war, i don't think this is going to be a walk in the parklike reimagined. these people are much better than we give them credit for. i think the senate tuesday game to change but certainly that class hostility was important in the beginning.
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>> i don't know if i'm going to be able to-- i found this a very interesting story and something had been interested in for many years, but you mentioned a dated dates and names, and the gentleman that asked about the clark stories written some place. i think one of the sons was named james and he came home and died. it is in the family papers some place. i am not a virginia expert but i know it is there. my question is, you mentioned this database, you have read journals, pensions and letters and so one. have you ever made a systematic attempt to go to the british record to see what lists of who these men were? i know-- >> well, a lot of the british records of course had been published. in fact some of them are available in new york and this is something that american researchers have been looking for for a long time.
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back in the 19th century george bancroft for example had a full team of people. if i had had another couple of years and a couple more sabbaticals and mike editor had not been so impatient, i might have gone over and spend a couple of years looking through british archives. i felt, and still do feel that that was, there was the point of diminishing returns on this kind of thing, and there is only one of list that has ever surfaced of british prisoners kept on a jersey, about 8,000 names that were collected back in the middle of the 19th century. but, as far as i know and as far as anybody has ever been able to find, there are no other lists of that kind. my strong sense is that, if such evidence existed it would have been discovered by now.
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>> the people that are captured with ethan allen? >> those kinds of records, sure. >> their names of people who were in candidate, not necessarily in new york. one of the questions was who was in the sugarhouse, but what did you do with the database of the names that you did collect? >> it is sitting on my computer. >> it might be available sometime. >> it is pretty idiosyncratic and so forth, but i did accumulate a lot of information about people. i would be happy to answer specific questions if i could. send me an e-mail and i will see if i have go to in my database. >> you may be hearing from me. >> fair enough, good. okay, thank you very much. we have run at a time. i appreciate it. [applause]
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>> edwin burrows is the co-author of the "gotham," the history of new york city to 1890. he was the recipient of the pulitzer prize for history in 1999. he is a history professor of brooklyn college at the city university of new york and lecturer at the organization of american historians. to find out more, visit brooklyn the.edu. >> this summer booktv is asking, what are you reading? >> this summer i plan and reading several books, a couple of them that the need to finish right now. one of them is on william wilberforce, a great man in history, responsible for eliminating the slave trade in great britain and he is one of my political heroes in life. the abolitionists in america look to wilberforce and his example of how to get rid of slavery in the united states, so
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almost anything i can read about wilberforce i tried to get my hands on in the book i am in the middle of right now i want to finish this summer. it is a tremendous book about his life and how he brought people together to eliminate the slave trade in great britain. and other book i am going to read this summer is called the longest day. it is about that terribly long day when we invaded europe at normandy, that eventually led to the end of world war to end it is, a friend of mine recommended it to me and he said it is just an amazing book so i am excited about reading that because some recent books that i read that i would recommend to people, one written by a navy seal about his experiences in afghanistan, and it is called the lone survivor. he is the lone survivor and it is one of the more remarkable stories of human courage and
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really is a tribute to the courage of his comrades who lost their lives in that time in afghanistan, but it is a tremendous book. another great book that i just read not too long ago called the great the people by j when it. it is fascinating in that it talks about the american revolution and what happened in russia with catherine the great at the same time and it ties history together better than any book i have ever read, especially how each one of those, each one of those countries affected each other, so it is one of the better history books i have ever read. >> to see more summer reading lists and other program information visit our web site at booktv.org.

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